The Fleecing of America by Biomedical Research Administration

Troy Shinbrot shinbrot at nwu1.edu
Wed Mar 20 16:25:49 EST 1996


What a fantasy!  How many people reading this have witnessed within the
past 2 decades anything resembling a situation where the government has
tried to overfund research and universities have screamed for the
government to stop?  I can see our university president now, "Please,
please, no more money!  We can't take any more!  Stop, stop!!"

In article <4ipmre$2gld at b.stat.purdue.edu>, hrubin at b.stat.purdue.edu
(Herman Rubin) wrote:

> >> The government funded, and indeed overfunded, research. 
> 
> >How do you conclude it was overfunded?
> 
> Not only were just about all reasonable proposals funded, but the 
> government deliberately set out to increase the number of research
> universities, and even research groups in non-research departments.
> Money was made available for this, even more readily than supporting
> investigators.  Also, there was a Congressional mandate to "spread
> the wealth", even if there were no good candidates. 
> 
> The universities screamed that accepting the government funding cost
> money.  It does, but should the universities not pay anything?  In short,
> a massive overhead system was instituted, and universities not only ended
> up not paying for research, but making money on the overhead they charged.

And another fantasy follows.  Some scientists are very secretive, some are
very open.  Has no bearing on scientific productivity, as measured by
citations, by numbers of papers published, by numbers of significant
technologies developed, by numbers of diseases cured ... you pick your
measure, it has gone up.

As for the assertion that "investigators ... will often fake or select
data ..." this is both false and cheap.  Investigators do, almost always,
select what data to show.  Investigators very rarely fake data.  I can
count the number of substantiated allegations of fakery over the past
decade on the fingers of one hand, and even those (for example,
Imminishi-Kari) are disputed.  Scientists have if anything shown
themselves to be _less_ prone to cheating than the general public, not
more.

> >Where is the research atmosphere destroyed? It's more fertile and active
> >than anytime in history.
> 
> This is very definitely not the case.  There is a greatly increased 
> amount of secrecy, so that someone else will not steal the grant 
> proposal.  There is the pressure to make progress; research sometimes
> stalls, ideas do not work, etc.  So investigators keep results back
> so that they can use them on a new grant, and will often fake or select
> data to make thir progress look good.  In research, it is necessary to
> be able to admit that the approach one has taken is essentially of no
> value.  Whatever strategy this takes is bad.


And for the finale, the Department of Statistics at Purdue University is
going to send back all of the government charity that has supported Herman
Rubin.  Hopefully they will revoke his internet account which was
developed and is supported by government funds as well.  Good news.  Let's
hope the minions can find a University President who can find a way to
spend the windfall.

> >This is a plan to destroy research, not free it.
> 
> I disagree completely.  The federal government, which cannot be trusted
> any further than I can personally throw the Washington Monument, can wipe
> out the funding for research immediately.  Research money has to compete
> with welfare, and a budget is made without considering anything other than
> the total.  Space research is one place where the governtment throttling is
> clear; the millions of people who want to fund space activities on a larger
> scale cannot do this without convincing a majority of Congress.  Let the
> people who want to fund research do this, and let them not have to fund
> federally run charity.  Instead of having 300 half-research universities,
> have 100 full-research universities, and let these universities do their
> research without federal restrictions.  It is vital for the future of 
> research that no governmental minions have any say in allocation.
> -- 
> Herman Rubin, Dept. of Statistics, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette IN47907-1399
> hrubin at stat.purdue.edu   Phone: (317)494-6054   FAX: (317)494-0558



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